Many Methodists know that John Wesley had an experience in which his "heart was strangely warmed." It was a conversion of sorts, a moment of awareness of the divine.
Not as many Methodists realize that the moment happened in 1738, when he was 35 years old and had been ordained in the Anglican Church already for 13 years. That means his "conversion" happened after he was called into the ministry.
And I suspect that even fewer Methodists know the journal sentence that follows the "strangely warmed" observation. He wrote, "I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."
"Even mine," he says. "Even mine." Those two words. It is as if he has only just now realized that all the stuff he had been saying for all those years ... applied to him as well. How is it possible for a preacher, ordained by the church, not to realize that all the stuff they are saying also applies to them?
I have been a preacher for nineteen years. I was a full-time music director at a church for five years prior to that, a part-time choir director for two years before that. Twenty-six years working for a church. I grew up in church, my family is saturated in church.
How is it that while all of that was happening I have never really been aware of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit?
I mean, I have preached about it. I have pointed it out in other peoples' lives.
But ... even mine?
I feel like I have become more aware of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the past two or three months than I ever have before. No let me rephrase that: I feel like I have never been truly aware of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit prior to the past two months, and now I am. In really amazing and wonderful and sometimes confusing ways.
I have seen the Spirit moving in the ministry of the church, in fresh expressions of Christian Community being born, true koinonia as it is meant to be lived. The ways I have seen this are numerous, and abundant. I have seen people returning to church for the first time in years, with hesitancy born from ongoing pain, and being able to spiritually breathe again. I have heard stories from the Shared Streets community, stories of transformation and hopefulness. I have seen the Spirit move in the simple gift of a new pair of shoes, a refurbished bicycle, and a new pillowcase. In the church, I have seen the Spirit move.
One of the ways most obvious to me is the way I feel about my wife and children. My love for them has been renewed in these past few months in a powerful and tangible way. My wife Erin said to me recently, "You are happier than you've been in years." And she is right. I've loved her fiercely for almost thirty years, and in these past few months that love has deepened even more. How is that possible if not for the work of the Spirit? And my heart aches with pride for each of my uniquely gifted children, for each of whom I would gladly lay down my own life. In my family, I have seen the Spirit move.
John Wesley had a group of Moravians show up in his life in the season of his conversion. Their unwavering faith in the midst of storm and struggle inspired him and was an impetus to his own time of soul searching. In a way, I have my own "Moravians" all around me. In this season, I have met and become friends with people whose connection with the Holy Spirit is so deep, so intimate, and so profound. I long to be as connected with the Spirit as they are, and I feel a unique grace in their companionship. In my new friends, I have seen the Spirit move.
And finally, within myself ... I cannot even begin to describe the change I have felt within my own spirit. Yeah, even mine. And please understand, the way I feel does not invalidate any prior experiences I've had. This present moment is emerging from all that has been. It's just that in the past, I have been quick to affirm those "God moments" that others would tell me about in their own lives, and just as quick to minimize them in my own, to chalk them up to coincidence or just ignore them altogether.
But now, I don't know ... my spiritual senses are awake in a way they haven't been before. I smile more. I walk more lightly. I breathe easier. I see people and am overwhelmed immediately with love for them. I notice beauty. I cry a lot. I laugh a lot. I don't really know this person I'm becoming, but I kinda like him. He's familiar to me, like a version of myself that I may have been once in a different time. In my self, I have seen the Spirit move.
So yeah, I feel like I do see God present everywhere in the world, and sense the Spirit is at work in my life, even mine, saving me from my own spiritual lethargy, connecting me deeply to other people, inspiring me with a renewed sense of vocation, and beckoning from a hope-filled future.
(And yes, I realize this post is utterly self-centered, and I'm sorry for that. I process things by writing, so this is really me processing some of the stuff happening to me right now. Thanks for reading.)
Let It Go, Sermon for Christmas Eve 2020
5 weeks ago